Runtime: 93 minutes
Director: Francisca Alegria
Writers: Francisca Alegria, Manuela Infante, Fernanda Urrejola
Actors: Mia Maestro, Enzo Ferrada Rosati, Leonor Varela, Alfredo Castro, Marcial Tagle
By Joan Amenn
Just to answer the most burning question readers of this review will have, no cows sing in this film. The title, like the film, is a gloriously surreal plunge into magical realism. Be prepared to be engulfed in a quietly eerie world of lush vegetation and gently foreboding events. Oh, and the undead as well. No, there are no zombies. Just a suggestion of how generational trauma can shape our closest, most loving relationships in ways we may not even be aware of.
Director Francisca Alegria depicts scenes of the jungle and countryside of Chile as enchanted places threatened by human greed and carelessness. That negligence echoes in the strained relationships of a family of dairy farmers who are facing a catastrophic loss to their livelihood. Untold secrets and resentments seethe below the surface, much like the unknown poisons that pollute a river near the farm.
Alegria does a wonderful job of making the landscape a character in her narrative but it is Mia Maestro as the family matriarch who returns to her family in highly unusual circumstances who is the heart of the film. She is remarkable in a subtly hypnotic performance that leaves much to conjecture about but in a good way. Her Magdalena has a stillness and tenderness that draws the audience in to watch what she will do or say next. Her interactions with her grandchildren are the most poignant and instrumental to the plot leaving me wishing there were more to their story together.
“The Cow Who Sang a Song into the Future” ends on an ambiguous note, which is in keeping with its theme of magical realism but the story still seemed to need more resolution than was shown on screen. Or maybe I just wanted to see more of Magdalena’s adventures as a strong woman taking back her identity and claiming her future on her own terms. This is a film to be watched and rewatched for the beauty of its cinematography and the compelling performance of its leading lady. It’s a pulsating green gem like the jungles of Chile.